I have pastored here in the states now for a total of 17 years. 9 of those years in my current ministry. I also served as a missionary for 20 years. I traveled preaching and presenting my ministry in many churches. I still travel preaching mission’s conferences, etc.

I wanted to put together some things that would help you as a pastor be more of a blessing to your missionaries. This will also help the missionaries as I will bring this to you from their point of view.

churchquote.pngHere are some of the great things you do that bless missionaries:

  • Thank you for being upfront and honest with the missionary that you don’t have missionaries in to speak if there is absolutely no way you will support them.

  • Thank you for caring so much for the missionary and his family that you pray for them and ask personal questions about how they are doing. The missionaries meet so many people and say the same thing in almost every church. It really makes the missionary feel like a person when you go the extra mile to take an interest in their life and ask them questions that are deeper than the normal questions.

  • Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak from your pulpit. Thank you for honoring them as heroes. It reminds them of the great task and responsibility and honor they have as a missionary of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Thank you for the generous financial gift, gift baskets and housing, etc. The missionaries know that you don’t have to give them anything and they are humbled to receive such generosity from you.

  • Thank you for treating them like a man of God and not like a boy.

UNTEACHABLESo now read the following and consider what you might could improve on.

In other articles I talk to the missionaries and spend hours teaching them. This one is for pastors.

  • Get a good calendar and keep up with it. Nothing is as discouraging to the missionary as driving 5 hours one way to hear the pastor say ” I forgot.” The missionary has been praying for the meeting, and drove 5 hours to get there.

One missionary drove from Atlanta to Memphis for a Sunday AM meeting on Easter. When the missionary arrived, the pastor cancelled the meeting because he had forgotten it was Easter. The missionary got less than $100 as a love offering and was told to call to reschedule.

Another missionary got to church where he had a scheduled meeting. No one was there yet; front door was open; so the missionaries went in, set up their display on an empty desk in the foyer! People started showing up for Sunday School which supposedly starts at 9:45. The pastor came in auditorium at 9:50 thru the back. He walked to the foyer where the missionary was standing and shook his hand. The pastor then said that he was going to have to reschedule the missionary (even though the missionary had called 4 days prior on Wednesday and confirmed with the church secretary. He said he forgot to call the missionary on Friday to cancel. The pastor said he would schedule the missionary to come on a Sunday night in the summer. Pastor said the missionary could still have a couple minutes in the service to say something. The missionary simply told the pastor that he knew of another church nearby that he could visit since he was going to have them come back later. The pastor said that would be fine. The missionary got his family together and packed up their display. The pastor said that they were tight on dollars and that was why he had to cancel.


 

  • Honor your commitments. When you cancel on a missionary the day before the meeting, he not only loses a meeting, but any income from a love offering. Love offerings pay their bills especially while they are getting started.

  • Please respect his time as well as yours. If you know you can’t have them in with a chance of support, don’t have them. A 30 minute explanation on the phone of why you can’t have them in isn’t fun, either.

  • Don’t think the missionaries are judging you. Missionaries often feel like pastors are making excuses as to why attendance is down, or things aren’t where the pastor wants. The missionaries are just excited at the opportunity to present the ministry and have no desire to judge you for the size of your building, congregation, etc…

  • Stop sending ridiculous questionnaires. Ask about doctrine, ask about ministry plans and philosophy, ask reasonable questions you or your pastor friends wouldn’t mind answering but stop asking what the missionary’s wife wears to bed.

  • Stop treating the missionary like an inferior. He may be younger than you, or have less ministry experience than you, but God has called him, just like He’s called you, and you are on the same team.

One missionary said that he was introduced with, “I know we all got socks older than this kid, but listen as he preaches anyway.” And that sounds really funny, until you’re the 65 year old speaker, being introduced by a 25 year old pastor who says, “I know this guy is older than Noah, and personally knew Isaiah, but pay attention to him anyway.” Missionaries are no less men of God than pastors and evangelists.

Please do not treat the missionary like a beggar. You won’t hear them beg, unless it’s for people to live more for Jesus and get the gospel to the world or for more laborers for the harvest.

Please do not ignore the missionary as if he were just a person you can’t wait to see leave.


 

  • Stop putting them in the roach coach motel. They are never going to complain about a free room, but one missionary said that he stayed in a motel with cigarette burns on the sheets, mysterious stains on the wall, an odd smell, and no heat. It was single digit temperature outside.

  • Please don’t take your young people out of the service when a missionary is there! This frustrates any missionary. Your young people are intelligent enough to understand missions. Many of our friends are missionaries because of God calling them to the field during a missionary presentation. The missionary wants to preach to your young people! Don’t send them away, please!

  • Don’t tell the missionary you’ll call back if you won’t. It’s a running joke that two of the biggest lies in baptist churches are “I’ll call you back, missionary,” and, “the pastor is unavailable/in a meeting.” I’m sure you do have meetings a lot, but let’s be honest, we all know that’s occasionally code for “I don’t want to talk to the missionary.”

If your answering machines says “leave a message and I will call you back “and you don’t call me back you are lying to me. Missionaries get this message every day. They leave a message and never hear back from the pastor. Change your answering machine to something more truthful.

Don’t cuss the missionary for calling your cell phone? You have it so people can reach you. Does that not include missionaries.


 

  • Please do not assume that this missionary is like all the other missionaries you have in. Just like pastors differ from pastor to pastor. He is a unique missionary. He is not like everyone else.

Concluding thoughts!

All the above things came from missionaries that I spoke with in the last few weeks. I know that the majority of things that happen on deputation are positive. I am a firm believer in deputation. I think deputation works great.

I would like to add that 99% of deputation is positive for the missionaries. I have written this so that you can see some of the hurtful things. I know you want to avoid those.

I do think that most pastors would like to know how to do things right. I am sure that some of the pastors mentioned were having a bad day. I am sure however that if it were your son or daughter on deputation you would want them treated differently.

If you were the pastor of that missionary you would want them treated differently. Let’s treat them like we would want to be treated if we were on deputation.

I remember when I started deputation after 8 years as a pastor. A missionary joked that I would now reap what I had sown. I told him that I sure didn’t want to. I had no idea what I was doing to the missionaries when I was a young pastor.

I gave them very small love offerings. I thought that they were kind of weird. I didn’t respect them like I should have.

Will you take this post to heart. My wife says that I might lose some friends here. I hope not. That is certainly not my intention.

I would love to hear from you. Let’s talk it over.

39 Comments
  • Posted March 9, 2015 2:27 pm
    by Stephen Underwood

    Very very good stuff! Thank you for being an encouragement and advocate for missionaries!

    • Posted March 9, 2015 3:17 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Stephen. Thanks for what you are doing to reach South Africa with the gospel.

  • Posted March 9, 2015 3:00 pm
    by Kyle Coker

    Very helpful article for me as a young pastor. Thanks for your honesty. This article challenges me to make improvements in the way I treat missionaries.

    • Posted March 9, 2015 3:04 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Fantastic. I pray God continues to bless your ministry!

  • Posted March 9, 2015 4:33 pm
    by Bob Van Sant

    Coming up on 21 years as a missionary, 19 years in Ukraine (now Russia). Couldn’t agree more with your post. Thank you. I would be interested in “the rest of the story,” that is, what do pastors expect of the missionary on deputation?
    I would also like to say how much I appreciate the flexibility of pastors that I call when coming back to the states on furlough. That is extremely helpful when trying to get to 30 or 40 churches in 5 or so months.

    • Posted March 9, 2015 4:53 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Great to hear from you Brother Bob. I already teach our missionaries on this but I would say one of the major things is that they use only the time that they are given. That they don’t try to correct another’s church.

      Thanks for reading and especially for commenting.

  • Posted March 9, 2015 4:58 pm
    by Pastor Greg Wilmore

    Very good comments and reminders. Our Missions Conference is 9 days away and I am always looking for fresh perspectives on how to love my missionaries, especially when they are days away from arrival. I read many of these type comments to our church to help train them to love on missionaries. I especially like the comment on asking personal questions rather than typical factoids.

    • Posted March 9, 2015 5:05 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Pastor Wilmore, thanks for reading. I am excited to hear that your Mission’s Conference is only 9 days away. The comments in the post were from actual missionary comments. I just tried to help them say what they felt. God bless you very much.

  • Posted March 9, 2015 9:05 pm
    by Kanon Bloom

    Thanks for writing this. Thanks for caring so much for missionaries. I appreciate your love for men trying to get the Gospel to the world.

    • Posted March 9, 2015 9:08 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      You are the man, as a brand new missionary! Proud of you Kanon

  • Posted March 9, 2015 9:21 pm
    by Scott Cramer

    Thank you Pastor Gardner!! This is very honest and helpful!! Their were several practical insights you gave that I needed to hear! God Bless you Preacher

    • Posted March 9, 2015 9:28 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      God bless you Pastor Cramer. You are a blessing to so many and I know you bless all the missionaries that come by

  • Posted March 9, 2015 9:39 pm
    by Joel Wallace

    Good article! Thanks

  • Posted March 10, 2015 7:22 am
    by Chris Gardner

    I am not one to comment often on blogs (even if they were written by my Dad). Great article there with many great insights.

    If the heartbeat of God is missions then how we treat the men and women that represent us on the mission field should matter.

    Churches need to read and learn to treat visitors right to assimilate them into the local body and much in the same fashion there is a responsibility to learn and grow in how we treat those that we send over seas preaching the gospel.

    Thanks for the article. I will be sharing it with my friends.

    • Posted March 10, 2015 7:44 am
      by Austin Gardner

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts. I know that you know all of this from experience.

  • Posted March 10, 2015 8:54 am
    by Curt Thomason

    Great article! Thanks for the honest comments. This would benefit anyone in ministry. God Bless you Bro!

    • Posted March 10, 2015 9:07 am
      by Austin Gardner

      Thanks Pastor Thomason for reading the article and sharing it with others. Thanks for all you do for missionaries.

  • Posted March 10, 2015 9:00 am
    by Eric

    Excellent. I would perhaps add one or two more.

    Love them and their children. Don’t expect children to act like mini adults, especially when they’re on the road.

    Of the foreign missionaries we support, three of them come either from your church or have attended your missionary training. God Bless you brother.

    • Posted March 10, 2015 9:06 am
      by Austin Gardner

      God bless you very much. Thanks for helping the missionaries. I do think that your points are well worth adding to the list. Thanks for all you do Pastor Davis

    • Posted March 10, 2015 9:16 am
      by Bob Van Sant

      Couldn’t agree more. I was in a missions conference sitting next to the pastor when a missionary family came into the gym. Their 5 and 6 year olds took off running and yelling (after being stuffed into a station wagon for umpteen hours). The pastor said to me that he probably wouldn’t support them because they couldn’t control their kids. Kindly I said something to him. Don’t know if they got support or not.

      • Posted March 10, 2015 9:50 am
        by Austin Gardner

        I would always have to warn my kids. I often stopped at the park or McDonalds up the road to allow the kids to blow off steam. Thanks for helping so many young missionaries. God bless.

  • Posted March 10, 2015 9:42 am
    by Tony Henderson

    Thank you for your pointed and direct thoughts. We have experienced some of these situations in the past; thankfully not all of them. We appreciate the faithful prayers and financial support from our churches.

    • Posted March 10, 2015 9:48 am
      by Austin Gardner

      I do think that the majority of deputation is great. Most of the guys that helped me compile the horror stories told me the same. There are missionaries that give all missionaries a bad name. I plan on writing another article for the missionary. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Posted March 10, 2015 10:42 am
    by Pastor Doug Mann

    Great thoughts. I love and respect missionaries and this has spread to our congregation. They love missionaries! So far, I haven’t forgot a missionary, but have had a few cancel a few weeks before the meeting. We would love to support every missionary who comes our way, but sadly we can’t. When a missionary calls me, and leaves a message, I try to get back to them. Some email me. I am more likely to get back immediately if they email, than if they leave a message. We are a small church, and when a missionary wants to come and present their field, I tell them if we will not be able to support them right away, and let them make the choice to come or not. Keep up the good work, and God bless.

    • Posted March 10, 2015 12:04 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      What a blessing Pastor Mann. Most pastors are doing great. Just want to help those that have not learned what to do. Thanks

  • Posted March 10, 2015 11:25 am
    by Michael Lovett

    Tremendous thoughts! I have been on both sides of this and it was a balanced and realistic approach to Deputation. Thank you!

    • Posted March 10, 2015 12:05 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      God bless you Pastor Lovett. Thank you so much for all you do. Thanks

  • Posted March 10, 2015 8:40 pm
    by Andrew Engelhart

    As an MK, I’ve seen some of the scenarios you mentioned, although I believe I was shielded from most issues. Thank you for putting this out there for pastors to read. I’ve also been on the other end as an Assistant Pastor, and thankfully, I had a pastor who loved missions and missionaries, and went above and beyond in helping them (either get to the field, or get back)

    • Posted March 11, 2015 1:14 am
      by Austin Gardner

      I plan to write another article from the perspective of the pastor soon.

  • Posted March 12, 2015 7:34 am
    by Kason Bloom

    Thanks for caring for the missionaries and how they are treated. I know, from some of the missionaries who are on deputation, that they are always encouraged when they are respected and treated well in churches.

  • Posted March 12, 2015 9:15 am
    by sergey

    This is a great article, and to know that I will be there someday preaching at different churches and see the other side instead of our side of being on deputation. Thank you for the help!

  • Posted March 22, 2015 3:57 am
    by John Moore

    There are two things that nudged me in this post:

    How treating a missionary like our own children on deputation adds so much perspective.

    And your own personal admission that you didn’t see some of these things in your first run as a pastor.

    Your human-ness makes what you say here stick so much more. How many pastors will see this? My prayer is for more.

  • Posted March 25, 2015 7:27 am
    by Pastor Ken Jordan

    Is there some way that these issues can be addressed on a large scale? Every missionary that I have met(that I can remember) when asked the question “What percent of pastors call you back when you leave a message?” The answer has been about 5%. Hours are being “wasted” on the phone by hundreds of missionaries on the deputation trail. Is there a different way to do deputation, such a missionary app, networking, etc.?

    • Posted March 27, 2015 9:09 am
      by Austin Gardner

      Pastor Jordan, The only way that I know to address this is in things like this blog. I believe that pastors have the best of intentions but get overwhelmed with missionaries. Deputation works but it does get discouraging

  • Posted March 30, 2015 12:43 pm
    by Chris Russell

    Thank you for sharing! I along with many others have experienced the same treatment. I will add that it is very rare to have bad treatment to me or my family! Your post have kept me encouraged along the road . They also have given me great understanding of what not to do!
    Thank you so much for your heart and dedication to men of God!

    • Posted April 1, 2015 2:25 pm
      by Austin Gardner

      Thank you so much for commenting. I agree, on the whole deputation is a wonderful experience.

  • Posted March 30, 2015 12:44 pm
    by Dennis Sampson

    Thank you brother for this article I truly enjoyed it even though I am not a pastor or on deputation, it was very eye opening.

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